We are pleased to share an article entitled “Keeping Healers Healthy: Coaching the Whole Leader in Healthcare ” written by Jennifer Zach
“Health care is the most difficult, chaotic and complex
industry to manage today.”
– Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator, and author
What isn’t changing in the global healthcare picture? New technologies and treatments are developed nonstop. Emergencies happen at any moment. Worsening mental health, healthcare workforce shortages, supply chain issues, funding gaps, and more contribute to the sweeping changes occurring across the healthcare industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic put global healthcare systems to a historic test and ushered in a new era of healthcare. As such, healthcare leaders and professionals are facing massive challenges, in particular, sustaining safe and effective healthcare under mounting pressure and being in the position to deal with various mental health matters as professionals, making coaching one of the tools that should be in every healthcare leader’s toolbox.
Unprecedented times call for new measures. The exacting nature of old-school leadership modalities like command-and-control are not well-suited to the complexities of today. The success of present-day healthcare organizations relies on strong, adaptable leadership teams and dyads who can create positive work environments that support employees and leadership at all levels with the right conditions to deliver safe and effective health care.
No one person can accomplish this on their own. It takes a unified, healthy team of leaders working in partnership, balancing different training and points of focus, to honestly assess the organization’s capacity to meet patients’ needs and the broader demands of the community.
How coaching inspires whole-leader health
Untold challenges and compounding pressures take a toll on a leader’s performance, but not before threatening their health and wellness. In today’s climate, healthcare leaders and professionals must be able to adapt and overcome for their own well-being.
It’s important for leaders to keep up with their own health and regularly renew their capacity to engage and restore their energy and eagerness to help staff do the same.
This shift invites innovation in coaching through practice and partnership. For example, coaches can place less emphasis on asking the perfect question and more value on being present, thereby coaching the whole leader. Being overly attached to asking the ideal question preempts a coach from doing their best work because it incites a fight, flight, freeze response.
When a coach attends to the leader in full by factoring in their thoughts, feelings, and sensations, the coach helps them connect with their inner landscape, become more comfortable talking about their mental well-being, and learn how to manage their fight-flight-freeze response. Doing so induces curiosity transcending fear.
Furthermore, coaches who partner with executive health program practitioners become part of a comprehensive care solution by being a spoke in the wheel that helps busy leaders prioritize their whole selves. Done thoroughly and effectively, coaching can equip healthcare leaders to simultaneously care for themselves and the organizations they serve.
Leading by example
In any sector, but especially in complex, heterogeneous healthcare with its life-or-death circumstances, staff need to feel like they belong, that their work is valued, and that they can safely speak up when errors occur and processes break down. Leaders can only give what they have to give; healthcare leaders also need to feel safe, like they belong, and that their work is valued. So, coaching healthcare professionals requires an extra measure of presence and validation.
It’s not about the coach. It’s not about asking perfectly formulated questions. It’s about being totally present with the leader to the point that they feel safe enough to weather industry unrest for as long as necessary.
An investment in the well-being of an organization’s leaders is an investment in the health of the entire organization. Coaching is key to helping healthcare leaders mold their self-awareness and stay accountable to their own well-being with the potential to create a contagion effect across the entire organization.
Budgets are tight in the healthcare industry. Turnover and inefficiency take a monumental toll on a healthcare organization’s bottom line. However, healthier employees are more productive and an organization that prioritizes wellness and prevention is more likely to cut costs and retain top talent simply by cultivating the culture of care and well-being that employees are increasingly looking to put down roots in today.
Actions speak louder than words, and it’s crucial that leaders lead by example. It’s easy for leaders to get swept up in the day-to-day and not take charge of their health. But that’s a mistake. What message does that send to staff? Coaching can help healthcare leaders connect the dots between their own well-being and that of the organization by creating the framework for leaders to carve out time for essential self-reflection and self-care.
Commitment to health worker well-being must begin at the highest level of leadership to build a wellness and prevention focus into the fabric of health organizations.
Leaders set the tone. If they openly prioritize employees’ health and well-being as a result of prioritizing their own, employees will likely follow suit, creating a ripple effect of organizational excellence.
Shared behaviors develop high-performing cultures
From patients and their family members to key medical staff, insurance companies, and government agencies, the healthcare industry includes a lot of stakeholders. Leaders need the behavioral skills to handle these relationships well. Coaching helps leaders develop some of the best tools of the trade to build these skills, such as integrity to build trust, active listening to foster connection, curiosity to open the heart and mind, empathy that models love and clear expectations, and accountability that creates a sense of safety and advances healthy, productive behavior.
Whether it’s enterprise-wide leadership coaching or executive 1-to-1, coaching is a highly effective investment that helps engage and develop crucial competencies within leaders overseeing healthcare complexities—while empowering their teams to provide exceptional patient care.
Leadership coaching is for executives who want to achieve a particular developmental outcome. Executive 1-to-1 coaching is more specific and relates to effectively managing people, teams, and the organization.
Whether coaching is enterprise-wide or 1-to-1, amidst inquiry and the self-reflective and action-oriented nature of coaching, the frontrunners gain awareness of the distinctive and collective impacts of their behavior on organizational performance.
Equipped with an institution-wide commitment to coaching, leadership teams develop shared behaviors that define safe, high-performance cultures by leaders being equally yoked in ensuring successful outcomes for patients and staff.
Coaching pays for itself
A curated list of statistics from Upcoach, a professional training and coaching organization, reports the five most common benefits of coaching are increased self-confidence, improved relationships, communication skills, interpersonal skills, and work performance.
Harvard Business Review reveals coaching boosts productivity by 44%. Hence, leaders know that to be successful and effective in their role, they need someone to help them find clarity to focus and prioritize their time and energy on the most critical tasks.
Moreover, studies have shown that executives who received coaching were perceived by their peers as being 55% more effective. Specific to healthcare, leadership coaching has become instrumental in attending to employee engagement and remedying burnout—factors that healthcare leaders are acutely aware of but not necessarily equipped to deal with as professionals.
Healthcare leaders are under immense pressure. However, they also lead purpose-driven organizations. Coaching that helps leaders consistently tap into purpose to cope with difficult situations has the dual benefit of recharging the leader and other team members and is good for the organization at large.
Organizational excellence is an inside job
Strong healthcare leadership paves the way for better-quality patient care and is at the heart of an organization’s capacity to improve and positively impact patient outcomes.
Even in the most complex industries like healthcare, coaching is highly effective leadership support because it doesn’t center on telling leaders what to do. Rather, it revolves around developing skills focused on leadership behaviors that impact the entire organization.
The health and well-being of healthcare leaders has a large impact on patient care and the overall success of any healthcare organization. Success emerges from the inside out, beginning at the top, translating into an organization that can only be as healthy as the people leading it.
People contribute better when they’re healthier and feel safe. Organizations can’t invest in everything, but programs, processes, and systems that support the whole leader are a worthwhile wager when the stakes are as high as they are in healthcare.
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